2017 FloXC Countdown: #4 Oregon Women

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Follow our 2017 FloXC Countdown, where FloTrack ranks the top 25 cross country teams and individuals in the NCAA this season which will be LIVE on FloTrack. The No. 4 women's spot goes to Oregon, and here's why:

Probable Top Five:

SO Katie Rainsberger (4:09 1500m; 9:00 3K; 4th at '17 NCAA 1500; 3rd at '17 NCAA 3K; 4th at '16 NCAA XC)
SR Alli Cash (9:06 3K; 16:00 5K; 9th at '17 NCAA 3K; 14th at '16 NCAA XC)
SO Carmela Cardama-Baez (4:25 1500; 9:31 3K; 16:23 5K; 73rd at '16 NCAA XC)
SO Judy Pendergast (9:25 3K; 15:52 5K; 34:59 10K; 2nd at '17 USATF Jr. 3K)
JR Jessica Hull (4:13 1500; 9:08 3K; 16:29 5K; 79th at '16 NCAA XC)

Impact Freshmen/Transfers:

Kate Murphy via Burke, VA (4:07 1500; 9:10 3K; 1st at '16 USATF Jr. 3K)
Carmela Cardama-Baez via Florida State(4:25 1500; 9:31 3K; 16:23 5K; 73rd at '16 NCAA XC)
Judy Pendergast via Harvard (9:25 3K; 15:52 5K; 34:59 10K; 2nd at '17 USATF Jr. 3K)
Susan Ejore via Monroe College (2:06 800; 4:25 1500; 9:44 3K)

Analysis:

After a thrilling year of championship performances, the women of Oregon are returning with a rightful spot among NCAA title contenders.

Last November, the previously ranked No. 9 Ducks executed one of the most shocking upsets in NCAA cross country history when the team of Katie Rainsberger, Alli Cash, Samantha Nadel, Ashley Maton, and Maggie Schmaedick won the team title by one point over the Michigan Wolverines. The performance kicked off an unprecedented year for the Ducks, who went on to earn NCAA indoor and outdoor crowns, becoming the first program in NCAA history to earn all three team titles in one year.

The cross country team has lost several key seniors to graduation, but they return a formidable young squad and have reloaded with several high-impact freshmen and transfer students.

Just as she showed last fall, Katie Rainsberger is back to prove herself as one of the toughest athletes among the NCAA ranks. Her freshman year at Oregon was highlighted by All-American performances across all three seasons -- cross country (fourth), indoor (third in 3K), and outdoor track (fourth in 1500m). At just 18 years old, Rainsberger also competed against the best professionals in the country when she placed 10th in the final of the 1500m at the USATF Outdoor Championships. She is currently ranked No. 7 in the FloXC individual countdown.

Alli Cash is returning after a breakthrough 2015-2016 which included All-American honors in every NCAA championship -- seventh in the 3K at NCAA indoor, fifth in the 5K at NCAA outdoor, and 14th at NCAA cross country. Jessica Hull also returns after setting a massive 1500m personal best of 4:13 in May.

Along with a strong set of returners, the Ducks reload with talented transfers. Former Florida State standout Carmela Cardama-Baez, Harvard distance talent Judy Pendergast, and Monroe College champion Susan Ejore should contribute immediately to the team's title hopes. Stud freshman Kate Murphy is also joining the squad after setting a 1500m personal best of 4:07 as a high school junior, which made her the third-fastest high school performer all-time. Murphy could redshirt her first season, but if she does compete she could definitely score for the Ducks.

The defending champions return a bit younger with several new faces, but have earned the right to no longer call themselves an underdog for a NCAA title.

FULL WOMEN'S RANKINGS HERE

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